Posted on September 20, 2019 in Countdown

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Bibi Done?

The luck of Bibi Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving (and most obnoxious) prime minister, seems to be running out, as his corruption scandal is now compounded with a narrow electoral defeat to the Blue and White party. This puts Benny Gantz in a better position to be the next Prime Minister, but things aren’t fully settled yet because it all depends on which parties come together to form a ruling coalition. So is Israeli-Palestinian peace any closer now? If you’re trying to control your laughter (or tears), congrats! You’re an informed observer on this issue. If you’re confused, here comes the disappointment: When Netanyahu promised to annex the Jordan Valley, Blue and White said this was their idea first. When Netanyahu unleashed a limited bombing of Gaza, Gantz said he would bomb Gaza more aggressively. In short, the policy of siege, occupation, and apartheid will likely remain the same (for shame), regardless of who becomes Prime Minister.

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Trend Watch: Vote Center Takeover?

Ahead of the 2020 election, important changes to the voting process are being discussed in election offices. Many counties are exploring the use of vote centers instead of precinct-specific polling locations. Most counties and states still use the precinct-based model, meaning voters are assigned to one polling location on election day, and they are unable to vote anywhere else. In contrast, vote centers allow voters to go to any vote center to cast their ballot. Some states already use vote centers, and the impact is mixed. While proponents cite the cost-saving and accessibility benefits of vote centers, there are valid concerns. Counties and states that have adopted vote centers have closed a substantial portion of their previous polling locations. This is alarming in states previously covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which required federal oversight of changes to voting processes to protect minority voters’ ballot access in places with a history of discrimination. Without oversight, many of the jurisdictions implemented the vote center model, closing dozens of polling locations in minority communities. The details and preliminary impact of these closures are outlined in a new study, Democracy Diverted, from the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Other concerns exist as well: will counties have foreign language speakers at all vote centers to accommodate language access? If these changes are made, how will the new model be rolled out to communities to prevent confusion among voters? Will the limited number of voter centers be strategically placed to benefit certain parties or communities? If your county is adopting vote centers, now is the time to engage with your elections office to ensure these concerns are voiced and taken into account in the decision making process.

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Protecting Children is Bad for Peace?

For a while now, we’ve been advocating for Betty McCollum’s H.R.2407, or the “Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act,” which seeks accountability for the abuse of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention. The bill has more than 20 co-sponsors, which amounts to a powerful statement about a rising voice in Congress that rejects the status quo of unconditional support for Israeli policies that violate human rights. In a disappointing turn of events, Congresswoman Debbie Dingell (who represents the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the country), withdrew her support for the bill, describing it as “counterproductive to a peaceful, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” In response, McCollum asked: “Does ongoing U.S. funding for Israeli military detention and abuse of Palestinian children promote peace?” AAI Executive Director Maya Berry lauded Dingell as “often one of the few backers of bills widely supported by Arab Americans," but added: "that does not mean she can suspend logic on this issue, especially since she has been so educated on it by her constituents." Even in the alternate reality that is Washington when it comes to the politics of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, this was a difficult one.

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Putting Lives In Danger, Again

Remember when Donald Trump falsely accused Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of supporting Al-Qaeda? That was a dangerous lie that (a) earned him 4 Pinocchios from the Washington Post, and (b) put the Congresswoman’s life at risk by telling people that she’s on the side of terrorists who want to destroy America (who wouldn’t want to protect their country from that?). When pressed on the inflamed crowds chanting for Trump to deport the Congresswoman, Trump subtly distanced himself from such chants. So did the President slip and make a mistake in taking things too far? Or is he a demagogue who has no qualms about smears and incitement targeted at his opponents? To no one’s shock or surprise, we now know it’s definitely the latter, as the demagogue-in-chief is at it again, retweeting a troll who fabricated a claim that Ilhan Omar was celebrating and dancing on the anniversary of 9/11. Under any of the last several administrations, this would be a scandal that rocks our political discourse for weeks. But in the “8 crises per minute” climate created by Trump, the president endangering the life of Congresswoman with fake news barely a day ago is out of the news cycle already.

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Another SCOTUS Case on Gerrymandering?

Yup, another one indeed, but this time it's directly tied to the Census. Civil rights organizations with jurisdiction in Maryland have officially filed suit last Friday due to Trump's Executive Order (which he announced as his “plan b” for getting citizenship data for the purposes of partisan redistricting). As you remember, Trump went to the Supreme Court and tried to say that he wanted citizenship data to reinforce the Voting Rights Act. Justice Roberts called BS & ruled that Trump had to give a legitimate reason for wanting to ask about citizenship on the Census. In a last-ditch effort to get what he really wanted (disenfranchise minority communities for political gain is a good guess), Trump ordered the Department of Commerce to use administrative records to get the citizenship data for the purposes of redistricting and ordered them to produce that dataset in a separate file next to the standard population dataset for each state. This lawsuit states that the Trump Administration violates the Administrative Procedures Act and is driven by a racially motivated agenda to limit Hispanic political representation and increase the political power of non-Hispanic whites. SCOTUS round two, anyone?

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